“And it’s disgusting how little that you try, the existential equivalent of pink eye,” Alex slammed his phone down on the table. It was one thing to be a bitch, it was another to be a pretentious artsy type of bitch. That was exactly what Melanie was… a faker, a fraud, a wannabe poet and full time bitch. It wasn’t that Alex didn’t try, it was that anything less than over romanticized, under developed, imaginary prince in disguise wasn’t good enough for her. Or any of her band of bimbos and brainiacs alike. Like everything else she did. Melanie didn’t judge her friends by their intentions, intelligence, or interests, only by their perceived personalities. Their power, pull, or persuasion. Basically half of her friends were illiterate sluts while the other half were intellectual experimenters, all of them striving to fit into a golden mold with a golden boy.

Alex took a deep breath and wonder what the fuck he had been doing with Melanie in the first place. It was then he remembered their late night chats about sex both on an intellectual and purely pleasurable levels, about their literature classes, about movies versus films, and anything else the world put in their path – more specifically whatever lecture they had recently come from. Their conversations were intimate, their sex was passionate, their values were like Palestine and Israel. Where he truly cared about the connection, Melanie cared about the future – their appearance to the outside world – their story, mainly his role in wooing her.

She wanted to be the artsy girl, the lit major, who fell in love with a fellow intellect. An intellect who pursued her through poetry, the arts, fancy dinners, exotic experiences, and highly sexualized and sensual moments in bookstores and classrooms. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t read a book since the summer before Freshman year, or that the only writing she did was her blog on campus trends, gossip, and other superficial hubbub. She was writing the love story of her life, one that somehow took a lit major and an underdog and had them grossing over 250k a year, 75% of which was to be made by him. Because any man worth loving would support her while she pursued her own dreams of being a struggling small business owner and part time freelancer until her Big Break. At which time their collective earning power would be a force within the social, business, and philanthropic scenes.

The sex must have been amazing. Or Melanie was the best salesperson he knew. Alex felt steam radiating off his body thinking of Melanie’s last text, the equivalent of pink eye? He had handmade her a promise ring. Not just some high school bullshit level promise ring, but a ring, a handmade ring with a real recycled diamond, that symbolized his promise to replace it with a better one, to stand by her side as she made her way, to make the world a better place on their climb up all the ladders she planned on venturing up – with him right there behind her to ensure she didn’t fall. He asked her to take the rest of their lives hand in hand, rung by rung together as partners, and because it wasn’t up to par with as a reimagined version of any romantic movie she knew she said no. It wasn’t good enough for her. It wasn’t what she wanted. It was mediocre and uncaring. How could anyone say they love her and not put any thought or effort into crafting her the proposal of her dreams? He was selfish. He was selfish for asking her without a hidden photographer and videographer, without her family and friends waiting in the next room, without a real ring, or any type of wow factor. He was selfish for asking her before he landed a huge promotion or had purchased an investment property she could restore, decorate, and call her own. He was the selfish one.

Alex’s phone went off again. It was another text from Melanie, “I can’t believe you’re not making an effort here. That’s all I’ve ever asked for… an effort [sigh]. Look Alex, I realize this is probably a little insensitive to do via text, but I don’t think I can be with someone who won’t fight for our special love. Thank you for the time we’ve shared. Let’s take some time apart to reflect before making any life altering decisions. I’ll reach out when I’m ready. This has been very emotional for me, even more so since I can’t gauge your feelings through your silence. Xo – Mel”

A deep rumble ran through Alex’s body erupting in a laugh so violent he wasn’t sure if he had peed himself a little or not. He thought of his best friend, Chyra. Melanie had hated her. Whether it was because the school paper ran more of Chyra’s work than her own or because she embodied the values Melanie claimed to want but couldn’t genuinely grasp no one was sure. Probably not even Melanie herself. Chyra would get a kick out of this. Mostly that Alex was dumb enough to be lead into a role he never wanted by an illusion made of smoke and mirrors topped off with sex. For the past nine months while he and Melanie had been dating it was still Chyra and Alex who did the things Melanie would claim to love more than Alex, or anyone, ever could. Things like reading a book, seeing the movie, going to the theater, comparing the different medias, going to art galleries and concerts. Supporting local artists, going to comic book conventions, and writing groups. It was Chyra he had always shared his passions with, his penis had found its own home instead of following suit with the rest of him.

Alex picked up his phone and called Chyra, short of demanding that she meet him at the library near the true crime session; she agreed to be there in an hour. Alex composed his thoughts, grabbed his wallet and ran to the bookstore on his way to the library. Digging his fountain pen Chyra had given him for his birthday out from his backpack he scrawled a note inside the book he had just purchased. When Chyra met him he was reminded of how she was most beautiful when her curiosity was peaked. He presented her with the book, nudging her to read the inscription. A slight blush ran across her cheeks. Within moments they were deeply embraced against the bookshelves. Their bodies aching for each other. This had been what it was all about all along. This moment of magic between the right people. Alex knew then his heart had always belonged here with Chyra, his best friend, and now that his body and brain had finally caught up they could build the life they were both drawn to, one that was uncomplicated by perceptions and trends. One that could be free like the beats of their hearts.

Say Anything. Lyrics to “Do Better.” Genius, 2019, genius.com/Say-anything-do-better-lyrics

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